You may have noticed our products are proudly made with organic cotton. Which is lovely and eco and sustainable and...what does it actually mean? Before I started on this sustainable journey I couldn't have told you and honestly, hadn't ever given it much thought and yet now I think is so so important. So what changed?
So previous experience with organic cotton was limited. Nine years ago, a friend of mine had a baby and I bought her an organic cotton pram set. Because it was really soft, and it was in chic neutral colours and it was the first baby I'd been around and I didn't know if mothers worried about chemicals and I really didn't know how hard it is to keep a baby in a clean cream top.
After that, I saw occasional worthy fashion labels in magazines that I half heartedly thought I should support but never really liked any of the clothes enough to commit to. And then there was the odd high street shop that would do a fairtrade organic cotton t shirt that cost more than a normal one. Usually in a jarring colour.
Which is to say, until two years ago, my experience with organic cotton was negligible. I thought it was a marketing gimmick. No one really needs organic cotton thank-you-very-much. Except they do.
Put simply, cotton production is catastrophic for the environment and organic cotton production isn't.
The production of conventional cotton uses 20,000 gallons of water per kg (that's one pair of jeans and a tshirt.) It takes 16% of the world’s insecticides and 10% of total pesticides. 77 million agricultural workers suffer poisoning from pesticides each year which also leak into water systems causing damage to aquatic life and environments. Cotton is farmed intensively as a monocrop which degrades soil quality, causing carbon dioxide to be released into the air and exacerbating global warming. Seriously it's not good!
Organic cotton farming on the other hand produces 94% less greenhouse gas emissions. It is 80% rain fed which puts significantly less strain on water resources. It nurtures soil quality and farming actually locks in CO2. And lastly does not use toxic chemicals and therefore is not harming the environment or the people farming it.
At Harris and Hall, all of our cotton is GOTS certified. This is the Global Organic Textiles Standard which monitors how the cotton can be farmed and gives strict criteria for the factories where it is processed into fabric. This includes how waste water must be treated, that chemicals used are non toxic and biodegradable and factories are regularly inspected to ensure there is no forced or child labour.
Once our fabric arrives unbleached into the UK, it is dyed in London in the most eco-friendly way possible, using digital pigment inks. This method uses no water at all in the printing process, takes around 95% less energy than traditional screen printing and causes virtually zero ink waste.
Which is the long way of saying that Harris and Hall products are as sustainable and ethical as we can make them. And pretty. Because your homewares should be beautiful on the inside and out.
Also you should never dress a baby in cream. Seriously, trust me on that one.